In Plain English: Imagos Softworks v Alex Mauer

(Editor’s Note: All information presented in this article is sourced from court dockets. As always, nothing in the column should be regarded as legal advice. In Plain English does not attempt to draw conclusions, and all parties are innocent until proven guilty in the court of law. I’ve fulfilled my legal obligation. Thank you.)

The Alex Mauer case is one that MMO Fallout has stepped away from covering, due mostly in part to the fact that every major Youtuber from SidAlpha to John Bain and Jim Sterling have more than thoroughly kept up with coverage, as well as that for a while now the story has been moving at such an incredible pace with fact mixing with hearsay that I didn’t feel that I’d be able to keep up with my morning and evening schedule freedom. I’ve always been one to avoid covering controversies until they turn into something genuine, an individual and a company shouting at one another generally leads nowhere, someone gets paid or agrees to stop shooting their mouth off, and we all go home disappointed.

But Alex Mauer’s lawsuit is different, because I think this is the first video game lawsuit in which the defendant has been ordered by a judge to stop sending death threats to the plaintiff. Here is the order:

Defendant shall refrain from making threats of harm and physical violence against Plaintiffs or Plaintiffs’ lawyer

The case of Alex Mauer really came to a head in June when she began submitting frivolous DMCA takedown notices for game footage of a property that she has no ownership of, but the drama goes further back than that. Mauer was hired by Imagos Softworks in March 2015 by Don Thacker to work on the soundtrack for Starr Mazer, a side scrolling shoot-em-up. At some point during this timeline, Alex Mauer asked for time off for medical reasons, at which she eventually left the team entirely. According to the lawsuit, Mauer came back and began claiming that Imagos owed her money, and claiming rights to Starr Mazer and Imagos’ other properties.

Mauer issued a DMCA notice against Starr Mazer DSP on Steam, forcing Valve to take the game down while the dispute was resolved, over a property that Alex Mauer allegedly doesn’t own. According to the lawsuit, which includes the contract with Mauer’s signature, Imagos Softworks retained all rights to Mauer’s work. Here is the snippet from the contract that discusses ownership:

WORK FOR HIRE: Contractor’s services will be performed as a specifically ordered or commissioned work made-for-hire, and Production Company shall own all results and proceeds of Contractor’s services rendered hereunder in perpetuity to use for all purposes, including without limitation to the exploitation of the Picture or otherwise. This agreement may be assigned to any entity by Producer provided such entity assumes all executor obligations. Contractor may not assign this agreement. Contractor agrees to maintain the secrecy of all Producer’s confidential information which comes into Contractor’s possession by virtue ,of Contractor’s participation in the Production.

Imagos is suing in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and has hired Leonard French as their attorney. Alex Mauer, in the short time that this case has been running, has hired and subsequently fired Frank A. Mazzeo. On June 26, Mauer allegedly began sending threatening messages of murder, arson, and vandalism toward Thacker and French, causing Mauer to be taken into involuntary custody while a mental health evaluation was performed. Mauer was released.

Mauer is being charged with Copyright Misrepresentation, breach of contract, defamation per se in regards to the claims of ownership, allegations of misconduct, and damage to Imagos Softworks through said allegations, as well as extortion/blackmail, following Mauer’s comments that the DMCA takedowns were to provoke content creators into contacting Imagos on her behalf.

In their lawsuit, Imagos Softworks hopes to place a permanent injunction preventing Mauer from filing additional claims, a delcatory judgement that Imagos owns its properties, unspecified damages, and any relief the court may deem necessary. The court will be conducting a hearing in regards to the application for a temporary restraining order on July 19 at 9:30 a.m.

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